President Barack Obama has ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds over accusations of tampering with the recent US general election. The diplomats will have 72 hours to leave the country or be unwillingly deported. As a sign of the seriousness of the situation, a later report switched to calling the diplomats “intelligence operatives”.
American federal agencies like the FBI and CIA have both spent the last few weeks talking about the possibility of Russian interference with the US elections. Accusations flew after the Democratic National Congress suffered a data breach, which lead to its candidate Hillary Clinton suffering from fresh allegations of misconduct.
As it stands, US law enforcement currently believe that Russia was using cyberwarfare to ensure that president-elect Donald Trump would win the election. Trump is considerably more friendly towards Russia than any of his predecessors, and has nominated individuals with ties to the country into senior administrative posts.
This is possibly the first time we’ve seen a world power attempt to interfere with the democratic process in another country, but it almost certainly will not be the last. Russia has proven its mastery over cyberwarfare in the past few years, with the country using cyberattacks to disrupt the power grid in Ukraine (where it is assisting a civil war) and government communications in the country of Georgia. Both of these incidents were related to Russia also annexing new territory from the affected countries.
Russia has responded by denying the hacking allegations, as it always has, and denounced the sanctions. The Russian embassy in the UK even tweeted a picture of a duck with the word ‘lame’ pasted on front of it. Threats to retaliate were also made.
It is unknown if president-elect Trump will undo the sanctions, but the Republican party – who are traditionally against anything Obama does – fully supports the action and says that it is about time someone took action against Russia.